Symptoms Of Alcoholic Hepatitis: Its Causes & How Is It Diagnosed?

Alcoholic hepatitis is characterized by inflammation of the liver and is caused by drinking alcohol. Despite the fact that alcoholic hepatitis is likely to develop in people who consume large amounts of alcohol over many years, the connection between alcoholic hepatitis and alcohol consumption is complex. All heavy drinkers do not develop alcoholic hepatitis, and the disorder is known to develop in individuals who drink alcohol moderately.

What Causes Alcoholic Hepatitis?

This disease develops when the liver gets grossly impaired by alcohol. During the process of ethanol break down, highly lethal and poisonous chemicals, such as acetaldehyde are released. These noxious wastes set off inflammation of the hepatocytes or the liver cells; and they get impaired. After a while, knots and scars begin to replace healthy liver tissue, thereby, hampering the liver’s capacity to function optimally. The irreparable scarring, called cirrhosis, is the last stage of alcoholic liver disease.

Heavy alcohol leads to alcohol liver disease. On the other hand, a lot of people who drink heavily never develop alcoholic hepatitis; it is quite likely that other factors come in to play:

  • Long-standing alcohol consumption can aggravate liver impairment caused by other types of hepatitis, particularly hepatitis C.
  • By and large, those who are alcoholics are malnourished, either due to the fact that they do not eat well or because alcohol and the noxious byproducts stop the body from breaking down and absorbing nutrients, particularly vitamins, protein, and fats. An insufficiency of nutrients adds to the liver damage.
  • Obesity is also known to worsen liver impairment.
  • Genetic associations have also been implicated.

Signs & Symptoms Of Alcoholic Hepatitis

Commonly seen manifestations include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss and excessive malnourishment
  • Jaundice – yellowing of the skin and sclera of the eyes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increasing belly size
  • Pain in abdomen and abdominal tenderness

Manifestations of severe alcoholic hepatitis are:

  • Development of acsites, i.e. the retention of large amounts of fluid in the abdominal cavity
  • Confusion and behavioral alterations because of brain impairment due to an accumulation of toxins
  • Liver failure
  • Kidney failure

How Is Alcoholic Hepatitis Diagnosed?

Identifying and diagnosing alcoholic hepatitis depends upon:

  • History of too much alcohol consumption
  • Indication of liver impairment and disease

Your health care provider will ask you about your history of alcohol consumption. It is essential that you be honest in telling him your drinking habits. Your physician may question family members about your drinking. Some individuals have signs of chronic alcoholism, like, skin lesions called spider nevi.

Your health care provider will order a few investigations and tests to assess the disorder:

  • Complete blood count
  • Liver function tests
  • USG, CT or MRI of the liver
  • Blood tests to rule out other causes of liver impairment

In case you have been diagnosed with alcoholic liver disease, you have to quit drinking alcohol altogether. That is the only way to reverse some of the liver damage or, in advanced cases, warding off an aggravation. Most people who quit alcohol show a remarkable improvement in their symptoms within 2 to 3 months.

If you continue drinking alcohol, serious complications can develop. In case you are dependent on alcohol, your health care provider will advise a therapy comprising of medications, and an out-patient treatment regimen or a residential in-patient stay.

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